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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Fort in Santa Teresa!

I thought I would continue on with another travel post. My friends Mari and Shawn have some visitors arriving next month from the USA and were wondering what sights to take in and show them. I think the Santa Teresa Fort and the national park in the Department of Rocha are worth considering!

Located 302 Kms. away from MVD (Montevideo) near route 9, in the department of Rocha, is a National Park called Santa Teresa. This park is made up of some 1050 Hectares of land with over 2 plus million trees leading down to the ocean. These trees were planted as a means of sand control. Rocha is famous for it's huge sand dunes.

The Park is free to enter. It's open year round and has cabins available for rent as well as camping spots. You have to pay and register in advance for those over night stays as only so many people are allowed in the park, this is for crowd control. Hiking trails, a small zoo/ aviary, a beautiful old plant conservatory and a rose garden (with 300 different varieties of roses) are among the park's attractions.

The Fort is run by the Military but is a museum now. To visit the fort you have to check in at the guard station and pay about $25 pesos which is around $1.50 US.

The fortress was built in 1762. Started by the Portuguese it was then captured by the Spanish who  completed its construction. It was lost for a time beneath some sand dunes for many decades and was only recently rediscovered in 1928! The beautiful bosque or woods now surrounding the fort were planted at the suggestion of the attending Archeologist Horacio Arrendondo who aided in its recovery. This was done so that the sand dunes would never again cover this place and it be lost. Because this area was buried for so long and remained untouched, it is a rich archeological and anthropology site.

The Santa Teresa Fort is completely walled in by a double masonry wall with corner lookout towers and cannon slots built right into this wall. Obviously the fort was built on a hill to enable its inhabitants the advantage of seeing across great distances in order to give the soldiers advanced warning of enemy troops approaching. You can see all the way to the ocean from this fort.

The fort contains a chapel, a kitchen cookhouse and a Smith shop (for tool making) besides barracks (which now houses several models of  fortresses  seen throughout Uruguay).

One can also see and walk through the Command headquarters, see an antique sword and gun collection, visit the infirmary and the Magazine (where the Amo. was kept). I even took a picture of the Latrine located along the walls top. I guess besides bullets and cannon balls raining down on your enemy, other more unmentionable things could be "dumped" onto their heads!  

The grounds inside the fort are not flat but instead are rolling hills planted with grass giving the impression of gentle waves (of lawn) You feel as if you're in a very peaceful place despite its warlike history.

The fort is very lovely to look at because it is covered with mosses that give an effect of a beautiful old quilt, a mosaic of Ocher (Yellow/orange), red, blue and green mosses grow on its walls.

I think that visiting the fort is an exceptional value for the money. Come through its giant gate and step back into time. History and beauty await.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Chilly Nights, A Short Reprieve.

I had a number of ideas for the title of this post. One was "Lady Sings the Blues." Another one was, "Oh, When the Saints Come Marching In". I guess I'll have to explain the reason for each.

"Lady Sings The Blues". As my last post mentioned, I was attacked by my own cat Nathan, that innocent looking creature in the picture above. To be fair he just wanted me to drop him when he thought that I was going to feed him to the local dog instead of carrying him past the dog to safety. My arm got infected from the puncture wounds. Now, many trips to the clinic and many doses of antibiotics later I am fine. I tend to heal very fast, so except for two tiny sore spots all is well, physically that is.

I guess the cat/clinic experience coupled with a few disappointments project-wise has left me feeling a little blue. In addition, some bitterly cold nights haven't exactly helped my temperament. It's been so cold that I even tried out our little fireplace in our second bedroom. This test run went fine for a while but the opening, the mouth of the fireplace is a little too large and it started to send periodic puffs of smoke into the room. I've since seen in some accessory catalogs for fireplaces, a strip that one can buy to add to the top of the opening to prevent this from happening. So one day, Wally can try and manufacture something similar here. As you can see from these pictures even our animals decided to huddle together for warmth.

Project-wise, I've had a few set backs as well, resulting in another blue moment for this lady (get it?)
I've been wanting to surprise Wally with a few changes to greet him on his return but with each accomplishment comes a tiny disappointment. The USA dollar has really taken a nose dive here in Uruguay which hasn't helped my saving up to spend on my projects. I've kept track of the dollar decline and it has gone down from $19.05 in April, to $18.80 in May, June saw $18.40 and now in July it's at $18.25. So by the time I've saved up for anything, I have to turn around and add more money to it before it can be completed. The cost of materials has also risen and one project was grossly under estimated by a worker that I use. However, the cost of something, "is what it is" or in Spanish "Es lo qué hay". The reason that my temperament is in the dumps is that for the first time, I'm really, really disappointed with the result of one of his projects. In fact, I think it's a lousy job and it was expensive! I'm heart sick with what I got! I'm not using his name here because normally he does great work, I'll blame the result on his new helper but...

A blue moment also came about when I tried to buy more wood for our wood stove. I believe that one should buy commodities "out of season" to take advantage of the price breaks. For example, buy a fan in winter and in this case, fire wood in summer, when there is less of a demand for it. Wally and I did that to some extent. We bought our wood a few months ago but we didn't have the space to store the entire amount of wood, we would need for the winter. So now that I have more space I went to call our regular supplier and guess what? He's no longer in the business. Normally a cord of wood is $2000 pesos with delivery and now I had to pay somebody else $2800 pesos. So okay, "Es lo qué hay" but the pieces of wood are huge! I did say that they were to be used for my "estufa de lena" or wood stove and not just a fireplace but I guess that got lost in translation. I will now have to find and pay someone to spilt the majority of them down, at least in half, for me to use them. More money out the door. The pieces are too heavy right now and they crush the embers and coals instead of igniting on fire. Who knew?

The new pieces of wood are on the left and my old, (better sized) bargain summer bought ones are on the right, boo hoo. At least, I had my friends, Luisa and her husband Jorge, to help me with the delivery.

"Oh, When The Saints Come Marching In." That was a title I was considering for this post as well. The reason is that two yearly back to back storms or "TORMENTAS" (in Spanish) are due and they are named after saints. That's definitely why I wanted a new wood delivery. The yearly "Santa Rosa" storm or Saint Rosa is due at the end of this month. A three day dousey of a storm (July 29-31, generally). It comes each year during the local festival called Santa Rosa, hence it's name and it arrives with a vengeance bringing rain and high winds.  This storm is followed on it's heels with one called, "The Santa Ramon Tormenta".  This Ramon storm occurs the first week in August. Apparently the wood I had just delivered was from this storm back in the year 2005, which killed 5 people as a result of the high winds blowing down trees. I don't think my wood personally killed anyone but rather it's from some of the trees felled by this same wind storm. Everyone made it a point to tell me of the dryness and history of my delivered wood. As an interesting side note for the past 3 days we have been experiencing another saint named period. This is a warm weather reprieve that comes before the storms. It's called Santa ??? ........... It's like an "Indian summer" we used to get up north during the fall.

Maybe when these storms, projects and my mood ends, this chilly blue period will be just a memory. Then I can look back and see the rainbow at the end of it all, like in this picture (as seen though my kitchen window) after the last storm. That being, of what I have accomplished on my own here in Uruguay.